Over 150 young women came forward to testify against Dr. Larry Nassar, who was the women’s team doctor of USA Gymnastics for over two decades.
He is not the first man to be laid low by his behavior toward athletes, and he won’t be the last. Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky and the revered Papa Joe Paterno were two of the infamous perp/enablers of boys in college.
We have, it seems, become inundated and numbed by these charges. And how did we get here? Girls, in this case, talked to people who should have listened but did not.
When girls came to “higher-ups” and told their tales, mentioning unusual exams, nothing was done. It took over five weeks for USA Gymnastics to contact the FBI when it finally started to listen too late. It took far too long for Paterno and friends to listen to complaints about Sandusky.
Do we really value winning above the safety of our children and young people? And before you say “no,” or that this is “a liberal plot,” go online and listen to the brave and often graphic testimony of these women who were girls just wanting to do a sport, to honor their country with their talent. And then tell me why no one cared.
Pedophiles are an unusual group, to say the very least. But those surrounding them — like Paterno, who turned a blind eye, like Michigan State University or Twistars Gymnastics Club — are complicit, and they are us. They are filled with men and women who chose to not listen to the rumors, the complaints and the accusations.
Various payouts and coverups only continue to tell girls and boys that they are sacrificial on the altar of medals and teams.
Lawyers line up to tell the colleges and organizations to say nothing, admit nothing, apologize for nothing. Cushy severance packages help get rid of those who knew and said nothing. Hush money is paid for their silence and guilt, and the girls suffer as the men are paid.
Where is our universal outrage when we see how winning can trump decency? Why are children used as fodder in competition? Leaving aside the damage to their natural growth, should we not be outraged that boys and girls are molested by their role models, whom we employ and applaud?
Should we not demand that all of those who bring such a case receive therapy and compensation? Not to make them rich, for money never buys back your innocence or youth, but to make allowing such behavior or turning a blind eye, too expensive to be borne by any one person or institution?
The price of letting molesters go on, be it in the church, gym, film studio or government, should be prosecution and restitution. It should extend as far as the boardroom, the ethics committee, the very heart of our institutions.
The opposite side of commitment to such actions is to go door to door and tell every son and daughter that when someone violates them, especially in sports, we do not care. We do not believe what they say or feel or experience. We love football and gymnastics and medals more than we love them. Get back in the ring and suck it up. Be quiet. Be compliant. And figure it out when your first marriage falls apart or you do drugs or you kill yourself.
It was your fault all along, if only you hadn’t been so cute, so young, so tempting. Get over it. Shut up. Keep moving. We didn’t know. We don’t believe you. You’re just a kid. How can a college, doctors, priests or rabbis be wrong? If it was true, you would have said so long ago. I mean, you were 11, 14, 16. Why didn’t you say anything?
What we are witnessing is the direct opposite of what many of us were told as kids: “You can tell me anything and I will be there for you."
No, we won’t, unless we decide to be. No, we won’t, unless we actually monitor behavior and have women in the room with girls when they are examined. No, we won’t, unless we reward those who see and tell. No, we won’t, until we care enough.
A 2016 IndyStar investigation “revealed that over 20 years, at least 368 gymnasts had claimed some form of sexual abuse by their coaches, gym owners or other adults,” according to The New York Times.
Medals versus girls. Now is the time to decide. Where do you stand?